If Doctor Who crashlanded the Tardis in Rye the great timelord would be hard pressed to say what century he was in. The road signs say this is ‘1066 Country’ but there are Ford Mondeos parked on the streets. Rye’s a slice of a parallel England that’s hard to pin down. Is it a medieval port town? A Hitchcock film set? Or is it plugging a hole in space time? Well, in fact it’s all of these things. A small town atop a sandstone promontory that was once a strategic port, the place has retained its cobbled streets and higgledy-piggledy houses and now looks like old England pickled in a jar.
Rye began life as a fort town in the 13th century based around what is now Ypres Tower, pronounced with typically English disdain for the niceties of French as ‘wipers’. The French burned down the town in 1377. In those days it was Rye-on-Sea and the town was a strategic port, one of the famous Cinque Ports of medieval times, though it didn’t sink so much as see its river silt up so much it started to grow new land. The town’s now two miles from the sea across a flat marsh and harbours nothing more ambitious than day yachts and small fishing craft.
The town’s charms have attracted an assorted bunch of misfits, from writers like Daniel Defoe and Henry James (who wrote one of his tortuous novels here) to the likes of Spike Milligan and Tom Baker who was himself the time-travelling Doctor Who in the 1970s, when Rye looked very much like it does today – timeless.
98 High Street Rye TN31 7JT
This respectable granddaddy of Rye’s boltholes began life as a 16th-century coaching inn
The Hope Anchor Hotel
Watchbell Street Rye TN31 7HA
The closest Rye has to a budget alternative, with around a dozen rooms, all cosily
Mermaid Street Rye TN31 7ET
A former wool store and field hospital during the Napoleonic wars, Jeake’s House is another Rye gem, this time in a plush, old-school, Laura Ashley...
The Mermaid Inn
Mermaid Street Rye TN31 7EY
It’s four-poster beds and bumps in the night at this self-styled jewel in the crown of Rye. The Inn was built in 1420 and became a notorious...
68–69 The Mint Rye TN31 7EW
Yet more oak beams and old world charm at this 14th century former hall that now runs as an upscale B&B, with mp3-enabled digital radios and...
White Vine House
24 High Street Rye TN31 7JF
Ivy-clad and looking a bit like the clubhouse of a well-to-do yachting society, White Vine
- Eat & Drink
Beach Bistro at The Gallivant
The Gallivant, New Lydd Road Camber Rye East Sussex TN31 7RB
Great, contemporary bistro with a New England feel – and menu.
Café des Fleurs
Unit 2 Corn Exchange Strand Quay Rye TN31 7DB
This is one of the quieter, more out of the way places in town, down on the Strand. The
The Fish Café
17 Tower Street Rye TN31 7AT
The Fish Café is one of three eateries owned and run by Paul and Rebecca Webbe, along with
108 High Street Rye TN31 7JE
With organic and fair-trade produce to the fore, the stylish Haydens dining room is
5–6 Landgate Rye TN31 7LH
Despite its rather drab exterior, the Landgate serves up a nice line in modern British
The New Inn
German Street Winchelsea TN36 4EN
‘New’ being a relative term in these parts, the New Inn dates from 1778. Its main
Playden Rye TN31 7UL
These ivy-clad oast houses on the edge of town are the haunt of an older crowd of locals
The Runcible Spoon
62 Cinque Ports Street, Rye East Sussex
‘They dined on mince and slices of quince/which they ate from a runcible spoon.’ This piece of nonsense from Edward Lear’s psychofantasia The Owl...
The Ship Inn
The Strand Rye TN31 7DB
A curiosity of a place, the Ship Inn was originally a warehouse to store contraband seized
Simon the Pieman
3 Lion Street Rye TN31 7LB
Not just a pie shop, Simon the Pieman claims to be the oldest tearoom in Rye and true to
Winchelsea Farm Kitchen
12 High Street Winchelsea TN36 4EA
This charming little deli-cum-café-cum-butcher-cum wine cellar sits in the equally charming small town of Winchelsea. The café is about as bijou as...
Ypres Castle Inn
Gun Gardens Rye TN31 7HH
A summery hotspot, the Ypres Castle Inn’s the place to come and sit outside by the big old
- See & Do
Clamber up the big Camber…
Derek Jarman’s Garden
Prospect Cottage Dungeness Road Lydd Kent
The late film-maker Derek Jarman's wonderfully low-key and poetic garden.
West Street Rye TN31 7ES
This was American author Henry James’ house. Now, you either love James or hate him, so you
Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway
Dungeness Road Lydd Kent TN29 9NB
‘The world’s smallest public railway’ runs for thirteen and a half miles up and down the...
Royal Military Canal
Nr Military Road Rye
The Royal Military canal isn’t really a canal at all and was not, as you might think, a
Rye Art Gallery
107 High Street Rye TN31 7JE
Split between the Easton Rooms and the Stormont Studio, this little gallery houses works by such
Rye Castle Museum
3 East Street Rye TN31 7JY
This place goes hand in hand with the Ypres Tower experience. The tower has the bricks and...
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Lime Kiln Cottage Rye Harbour Road Rye TN31 7TU
Just outside town, the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is an area of salt marsh, shingle and...
Rye Heritage Centre
The Old Sail Loft, Strand Quay Rye TN31 7AY
This is the place to brush up on all things Rye. Orientate yourself by getting a gull’s eye view of a scale model of the town along with a run...
Northpoint Water New Lydd Road Camber Rye TN31 7QS
Watersports are a natural choice with the sea so near and with wind in such plentiful
St Mary’s Church
Church Square Rye TN31 7HF
Situated at the heart of old Rye, and providing marvellous views over the surrounding area
Winchelsea East Sussex
If you think Rye’s an olde worlde charmer, come and have a look at Winchelsea – a tiny
Ypres Tower is one of those classically shaped castles you draw as a kid – square with
Ashbee & Son
100 High Street Rye TN31 7JN
Every small town needs a good butcher and Ashbee & Sons has been on Rye’s High Street since the 1850s. It’s a fresh meat and pies kind of place...
18–22 Rope Walk Rye TN31 7NA
Owned by glass expert and Antiques Roadshow guru Andy McConnell, Glass Etc styles itself as a shop for ‘antiques and high class junk’ but it’s...
104a High Street Rye TN31 7JN
Get your organic mind and body products at this compact little store on the High Street.
28b High Street Rye TN31 7JG
There’s soups and stews, pies and cold meats, in fact everything you need for a picnic